New Book ‘Voices’ Depicts the Outré Glamour of East London

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Karen Binns, What Magazine

 

Like New York’s LES and Paris’ Pigalle, East London has long passed its status as a down-at-heel, insalubrious corner of the capital – indeed, a Nobu Hotel recently opened in Shoreditch. But far from the trad/luxe goings on in Mayfair, St. James and South Ken, the neighborhoods that make up the “East” have become keen cultural incubators, and sanctuaries for the city’s more…iconoclastic sorts.

Iranian-born photographer Maryam Eisler undertook to capture that iconoclasm; and the result is the resplendently colorful new book Voices East London (published by Thames and Hudson).

It opens with her recalling her wide-eyed fascination, arriving in the still uncultivated area in the early 2000s. There were dinners amidst the kooky taxidermy at Les Trois Garçons, encounters with irreverential artists Gilbert & George. Drag-comedian Jonny Woo’s East End Diaries essay then sets the book in motion.

From there, her vivid, realist-but-idiosyncratic photos are interspersed with interviews of local impresarios/creatives like Auro Foxcroft, founder of culture space Village Underground; artist Sue Webster and street artists Stik and Christiaan Nagel; star chef Mark Hix; Tatty Devine founders Harriet Vine & Rosie Wolfenden; as well as flamboyant interior designer and proprietor of the equally flamboyant 40 Winks hotel, David Carter…amongst many others.

Profiles of places like queer/alternative performance spot The Glory and the eccentric Stoke Newington Markets take the reader on an exhilarating journey – evoking that feeling one gets when you can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner (but in this case, on the next page).

An image of perpetually cool Shoreditch pub Electricity Showrooms, one of the area’s pioneers, nostalgically reminds of a time when it still was a bit of a cultural hinterland.

What is most striking is the sheer Britishness of it all. If you wander NYC’s trendiest neighborhoods now, there’s a sense of stifling, dull sameness – “hipster” hoods from Brooklyn to Chicago to Montreal look remarkably, depressingly standardized, to be sure. But Brits will be Brits, and London will always be London; and the inimitable eccentricities shine gloriously through on page after page, reminding us of why we still love Blighty’s capital just the way we always have.

Paris has the architecture, Rome has the history – but London will always be more about Londoners…something Eisler corroborates in the most marvelous of ways.

 

  • Artist Philip Colbert
  • Princess Julia
  • Ye Olde Axe
  • Gilbert & George
  • Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery
  • Pearly Kings & Queens